Inter prepare for their International Champions Cup tie against Real Madrid in Guangzhou.
Atletico Madrid's new signing Jackson Martinez is paraded in front of the adoring public and fans within the Estadio Vicente Calderon stadium.
In his press conference, he explained that he feels no pressure in not performing as a team player and remains confident in his own technical ability.
Supporting Inter means deciding to make your life more complicated,” wrote Beppe Severgnini – one of the club’s most famous and high-profile fans – in his book Interismi, going on to say that the Nerazzurri faithful “know we have chosen a difficult love, but this makes it even more beautiful.”
Aside from Valentino Rossi, perhaps the most recognisable Inter supporter is Massimo Moratti, a man who would almost certainly agree with that assessment.
Following in his father’s footsteps, it is estimated that the oil magnate invested around Dh6 billion (€1.5bn) of his own money on the transfer market alone after taking control of the club in 1995.
Perfectly positioned in the aftermath of the Calciopoli scandal eleven years later, Moratti’s Inter took full advantage to win four consecutive Serie A titles, culminating in the 2010 treble, which saw Jose Mourinho push them to glory in the Champions League.
Just as Angelo Moratti had done in the 1960s, his son Massimo had delivered European football’s ultimate prize to the black-and- blue half of Milan after decades of living in the shadows of their cross-town rivals Milan.
Yet, while his Portuguese coach recognised that the victory signalled the end of an era and left for Real Madrid, the club’s majority shareholder allowed Inter to drift aimlessly in subsequent seasons, retaining the bulk of the side despite their advancing years and declining skills. A fan until the end, it took over three years for Moratti to eventually sell a controlling stake in the club to Erick Thohir in November 2013.
The Indonesian entrepreneur inherited a club that was in no position to deal with the complexities and realities of UEFA’s Finan- cial Fair Play Regulations, cycling through seven coaches following Mourinho’s departure and desperately needing to cut costs.
In the eighteen months since arriving, Thohir has made tangible changes in almost every area of the club, but perhaps nowhere more so than on the pitch.
Despite the dramatic overhaul, Inter did turn to their past in searching for Walter Mazzarri’s replacement, bringing in Roberto Mancini – who had been sacked by Moratti back in 2008 – for his second spell in charge.
“It was the right time for a change,” Thohir said shortly afterwards, adding that the club’s management team “want to make sure that we have a solid foundation on and off the field to return to the top positions as soon as possible.”
Despite bringing in the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Davide Santon and Lukas Podolski in January to try and boost their chances, Mancini’s arrival failed to have an immediate impact as Inter finished 2014-15 in eighth place.
That meant they would be without European football for the second time in three years, and Inter are determined that will not happen again next time around.
They have been one of the most proactive teams on the continent so far this summer, already securing central defender Joao Miranda from Atletico Madrid, Manchester City’s Stevan Jovetic, AS Monaco midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia, and Barcelona full-back Martin Montoya. Those latter two – aged 22 and 24 respectively – will help shift towards the club’s ideal average squad age of 26-27.
As well as being intelligent acquisitions, they have also been signed in well-structured deals, with Miranda’s transfer an example of ‘The Inter Formula.’ The Brazilian has joined on a loan until 2016, with the Nerazzurri then paying the Spanish club a Dh50 (€12.5m) fee over the subsequent two years which is a major help with their FFP compliance.
The work to improve on their on-field pedigree has one clear aim: get the club back into the Champions League on a regular basis.
But Thohir instantly recognised the need for sweeping alterations behind the scenes too, particularly in a league blighted by corruption scandals, racism and poor stadia.
“It happens in many companies,” Thohir said when discussing the decline of Italian football with the Financial Times last October.
“When you’re on top, you’re comfortable, you get fat and lazy and then suddenly there’s another company and its working hard and fighting to compete. In our case it was the English Premier League and Germany’s Bundesliga.”
Thohir and the people he has employed to revive the club’s fortunes are striving to improve their income, firm in the belief that Inter are one of the top 10 football brands in the world (currently ranked 17th by Deloitte).
“Serie A has be to more aggressive,” the 44-year-old owner told CNN reporter John Sinnott, stating that the league must change much about the way it operates.
The biggest matches in Italy traditionally start at 20:45 CET (22.45 UAE) on a Sunday, which is almost 03:00 in East Asia and also clashes with NFL football in the US.
That has been one of the keys to the success of the Premier League, with its Saturday afternoon kick off time, and it is to that model which Thohir has looked for inspiration.
He appointed Michael Bolingbroke – who previously worked for Manchester United – as CEO, and followed that up with a string of new faces.
Inter’s marketing director Claire Lewis previously held that same role with Apple’s iTunes, and the chief financial officer is Michael Williamson, formerly of DC United – a club also owned by Thohir.
The experience of Williamson has been vital, with the MLS club having endured issues in securing a new stadium and Inter desperate to improve their situation at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.
Cross-town rivals Milan have won the right to build a new home in the city’s Portello district, working on a project which the Nerazzurri have been heavily involved in from the beginning. Their move is expected to be some way off but will leave the San Siro to Inter, not before it hosts next season’s Champions League final.
The two clubs and the Milanese council will invest a total of Dh89m (€22m) to make improvements to stage that event, after which time Inter – whose average attendance in 2014-15 was just 37,270 – will begin to renovate a ground that has been their home since 1926.
Last month, La Gazzetta dello Sport revealed plans to remove the third tier and lower the roof reducing the capacity to 60,000. The new team see opportunities to boost merchandise sales and generate revenue from summer tours – such as this year’s trip to China. Thohir has been open with supporters about moves to realise that potential, admitting that part of the reason he signed Nemanja Vidic from Manchester United was because he was a “good brand for the Asian market”.
Of course everything hinges on Mancini’s ability to deliver improved results but with both Milan and Inter out of Europe simultaneously for the first time since 1955, there is a feeling that the forthcoming campaign could see the city’s two sleeping giants awaken again.
Mancini will have a full pre-season to prepare his squad rather than inheriting a poor situation and there will be no distractions from the Europa League either.
“The fans have to trust us because what we do is good for the club,” Thohir said recently. It seems, judging by the work he has already done and the plans his team are putting in place, that Inter supporters should indeed have faith in his approach.